American Christianity has faced theological-political crises before. Repeatedly, visions of what is possible for the nation have fallen short of reality. In the past, periods of change pushed faithful people to reconsider what they believed, not only about the nation but also about the meaning of God’s call to justice. In each critical moment, for good or ill, Americans altered their religious views, and the horizon of what was possible expanded or contracted.
In revolutionary America, disunity resulted from debates over whether faith required obedience to the king or a revolt.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris in mid-November, Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz set off a flurry of controversy when he announced that he believed the federal government should bar Muslim refugees fleeing violence and civil war in Syria from resettling in the United States. He stated on Fox News, “on the other hand, Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them.”
After President Obama described these sentiments as “shameful” and “un-American,” Cruz doubled down.
The subject of immigration engenders contentious debate, complex discussion, and conniving diatribe among Americans. Four years ago, the mother of a recently elected Republican senator implored her son to be compassionate in his legislative work on the issue. She reminded him of their own family’s journey from central Cuba to south Florida and noted that undocumented immigrants—she called them los pobrecitos, “poor things”—are human beings seeking dignity, work, and a better future just like they were.
One wonders if Marco Rubio remembers his mother’s message.
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” The author of 1 John invites us to put our love into action—to love with our lives. Love is a commandment: “love one another, just as [Jesus] has commanded us.” If we follow this commandment to love, then we are in communion with God: “All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.”